Baggage-weight restriction takes off with a grimace

Posted: Sunday, October 05, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Maryann Watson had five large cardboard boxes, two pieces of luggage and a bad mood as she wheeled her load up to an Alaska Airlines check-in line.

It was the first day of the airline's new baggage weight limits, and the Bethel resident was feeling the pinch.

"It's a hassle," she said.

Returning from a shopping trip to Anchorage with her husband and daughter, Watson said they had to dramatically change the way they typically lug the goods back home.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, like many major carriers, has reduced the weight limit for checked bags from 70 to 50 pounds under rules that took effect Wednesday.

Under the old limits, the family could check six boxes of supplies with little fear of hitting the 70-pound limit. With the reduced weight restriction, the family had to pack their goods in nine containers. The $25 fee for bags that weigh over 50 pounds made her nervous so the family bought a scale.

Under the new rules, most passengers may check two bags or pay additional fees for extra weight. But in-state fliers - after a loud public outcry about the new limits - can check three 50-pound bags apiece.

"They were really concerned about their ability to do the kind of occasional shopping they may do in a bigger city and having to pay extra" to get it home, said airline spokesman Jack Evans.

The company said that actually increases the amount they could previously ship for free by 10 pounds and is a good compromise.

"The majority (of checked bags) fall under 50 pounds anyway. It shouldn't impact a huge number of people at all," Evans said.

Beverly and Kent Grinage were on their way back to Barrow with their daughter Qaiyaana with luggage and a large insulated cooler and a waxed cardboard fish box full of meat and fish.

Their full cooler weighs in right around 70 pounds, she said. If it weighs 71 pounds, they have to pay $50.

"When they cut the limit from 70 pounds to 50, that hurts us," Beverly said. "We try to bring as much fresh meat and produce as we can."

The family mailed 12 boxes and Beverly said the new rules will require them to pack more carefully.

Alaska Airlines reduced its baggage weight limits to reduce employee injuries because heavy bags are the leading cause of on-the-job injuries for ticket agents and ramp workers, Evans said.



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